Horeswood 2-15 Liam Mellows 1-17
UNBRIDLED JOY and utter heartbreak often go hand-in-hand at the end of county finals, and this was certainly the case in Chadwicks Wexford Park on Saturday when never-say-die Horeswood snatched the Joyces Expert Intermediate ‘A’ hurling championship crown from under the noses of a shattered Liam Mellows side.
The Coolgreany men seemed set to make up for last year’s extra-time disappointment at the same stage to Tara Rocks when Eoin Cullen’s seventh successful free extended their lead to 1-16 to 0-13 in the 55th minute.
A Jack Higgins goal on the stroke of half-time had erased a lot of Horeswood’s good work earlier, leaving just one point between the sides (0-9 to 1-5), and Liam Mellows had forged in front (1-11 to 0-11) by the last water break.
They continued to motor encouragingly towards the finish, with centre-back Colin Kennedy and midfielder Ross Cody prominent, but they will be haunted by the conclusion to this game for a long time to come.
It all started when the excellent Jamie Myler – already responsible for five sweet points from play – split the posts with a line ball from the left flank on the uncovered side to make it 1-16 to 0-14.
And while Seán Nolan had been a peripheral figure for long spells of this contest, the man who returned from his year-long work placement in Luxembourg in time for the quarter-final was ready to leave a lasting impression.
A Cathal Parker cross from the left was gathered by the county footballer and planted in the net in the 59th minute, increasing the anxiety of the Liam Mellows crew as their advantage was reduced to a dangerous-looking 1-16 to 1-14.
However, when Colin Kennedy latched on to a loose Horeswood clearance and drove a mighty strike between the Clonard end posts, it looked like a huge boost to their hopes.
The reigning Junior champions needed a swift response, and it came initially in the form of a fourth point for the impressive Conor Foley after good work by Jack Kehoe and substitute Darragh Flannelly.
Three additional minutes were announced, with four played after an injury, and the sole score in that period is one that will be recalled with glee down Campile way for many years to come.
The vision of Conor Foley was instrumental in the move as, gathering the ball to the left of the town goal on the endline, he spotted Seán Nolan in space in the middle and delivered an inch-perfect pass.
Nolan duly crashed his shot to the net for the second time in just over two minutes, and a remarkable turnaround was completed.
Neutrals certainly wouldn’t have begrudged Liam Mellows a draw and a second chance after their overall contribution to the contest, but it wasn’t to be.
Horeswood defended a couple of attacks before young Cathal Parker put his body on the line under the stand, and their sensational revival was completed as they now return to Intermediate ranks for the first time since 2014. Ironically, they lost their status to Liam Mellows on that occasion, with a 6-12 to 2-9 defeat in the relegation decider.
And now, after a twelve-point win over Kilmore in last year’s Junior final, they have added Intermediate ‘A’ honours at the first attempt which is a magnificent achievement.
Captain Shane O’Hanlon is certainly growing accustomed to climbing the steps to accept silverware, and this year there’s the extra bonus of having a provincial club campaign to look forward to after their football commitments conclude.
The sides were level on three occasions in the opening quarter before a Seán Stafford point from a Joe O’Sullivan pass made it 0-4 to 0-3 in Horeswood’s favour at the first water break.
Conor Foley had opened their account from a pull before Eoin Cullen levelled, with Liam Mellows hitting the front for the first time with a fine strike from distance by captain Ross Cody.
Michael O’Hanlon equalised before the on-song Jamie Myler made it 0-3 to 0-2 for Horeswood from a Foley pass, with Colin Kennedy soloing upfield for another equaliser prior to that strike from Stafford.
The wides mounted for both sides in the second quarter, with nine for Liam Mellows and seven for their rivals before the interval.
However, Horeswood also enjoyed a bright spell as Myler, Foley and Myler again stretched their lead to 0-7 to 0-3 by the 21st minute.
Eoin Cullen stopped the rot from a free, but Declan Murphy and Michael O’Hanlon (free) responded to leave the New Ross District side very much in the driving seat (0-9 to 0-4).
Cullen registered again, this time from play, before the persistence of Jack Higgins provided the north county men with a major lift in first-half additional time.
Colin Kennedy landed a long-range effort short to netminder Eoin Mythen – who stepped in to replace Neil Ennis when the regular number one departed for the USA on a soccer scholarship after the quarter-final.
However, Higgins got a partial block on his attempted clearance, and he was on hand again when Conor Carty fed him with a handpass to hammer home the game’s first goal (0-9 to 1-5).
It was a score that clearly lifted a Liam Mellows side minus the considerable influence of the injured Liam Coleman, because they followed up with six of the first seven points registered on the restart.
Eoin Cullen (free and play) and Ross Cody scored before Jamie Myler replied, only for Cullen to tap over another brace while Joe Gardiner landed one from play in between. The outstanding Myler pulled one back just before the water break, leaving Horeswood trailing by 1-11 to 0-11.
Ross Cody and Joe Gardiner widened the gap to five, but Seán Nolan had his first sight of goal in between when his piledriver struck the body of wing-back Richard Farrell for a major let-off for the leaders.
With Eoin Cullen taking full advantage of three more chances from placed balls, and responses delivered by Michael O’Hanlon (free) and Conor Foley, Liam Mellows still held the whiphand (1-16 to 0-13) before that Seán Nolan-inspired intervention turned the tide in devastating fashion.
Horeswood: Eoin Mythen; David Murphy, Shane O’Hanlon (capt.), Eamonn O’Sullivan; Joe O’Sullivan, Barry Hearn, Seán Hunt; Declan Murphy (0-1), Conor Foley (0-4); Cathal Parker, Seán Stafford (0-1), Jack Kehoe; Jamie Myler (0-6, 1 line ball), Michael O’Hanlon (0-3 frees), Seán Nolan (2-0). Subs. – Danny Byrne-Murphy for E. O’Sullivan (HT), Darragh Flannelly for Stafford (50), also Eddie Breen, Gavin Murphy, Shane Rowe, Tommy Quinn, James Murphy, Craig Murphy, Brian Kehoe, Dean Roberts, John Chapman, John Bradley, Adam Harris, Neil Ennis.
Liam Mellows: Gavin Stamp; Aaron Condren, Andy Merrigan, Danny Gardiner; Richard Farrell, Colin Kennedy (0-2), Frank Roche; Ross Cody (capt., 0-3), Rory Heffernan; Marc Halpin, Joe Gardiner (0-2), Brendan Halpin; Jack Higgins (1-0), Eoin Cullen (0-10, 7 frees), Conor Carty. Subs. – Stephen Moloney for B. Halpin (53), Seán O’Hagan for Condren (60+4), also Conor Cleary, Seán Óg Stafford, Dylan Goland, Shane Halpin, Stephen Rafferty, Alex Murphy, Pádraic Byrne, Frank Kavanagh, Jesse Foley, Robbie Brooks, Danny Dixon, Liam Coleman.
Referee: Justin Heffernan (Blackwater).